Phone, Internet and TV streaming while in France

During your stay in France, you probably want to tell your family about your arrival, send photos to your friends, check your messages, download applications... But is using your smartphone in France more expensive? What should you look out for if you buy a prepaid SIM card? Can you use your TV streaming service while your stay? All the answers to your questions in this FAQ.


France is part of the countries using GSM for mobile communications. So you phone needs to be GSM compatible. If your phone has an IMEI number, it should be compatible GSM. In case of doubt, contact your seller or operator.

If you are envisaging using French SIM cards, also make sure that your phone is unlocked so that you can use a different provider.

If you have a plan with an operator based in a Member State of the European Economic Area (EEA), i.e. the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU) and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, on your occasional travels, you benefit from the so-called “Roam Like at Home”.

You will not have to pay any extra charges for using your mobile phone when you travel from your home country to France. Your calls, text messages (SMS) and mobile data (web browsing, music and video streaming, etc.) are charged at domestic rates, i.e. the same price as calls and texts within your residence country. You can make calls and send text messages from France to France or to another EEA country at no extra cost.

If you have an unlimited plan for calls and SMS, you benefit from the same volume for calling and sending SMS in roaming.

If you have unlimited data use, your operator may apply a “fair use” limit. In this case, in your contract, your operator must stipulate the amount of mobile data authorised in roaming mode. This amount is usually less than you are entitled to in your home country. Mobile data is billed at the same price as in your home country provided your use is reasonable. If you reach the limit you need to be notified and if you exceed the amount set by your operator, you will most likely have to pay additional charges.

More information in the article Calls, SMS, Internet in France

Concerning calls or text messages received in France, you will not be billed any extra charges for receiving calls or texts while roaming even if the person calling you is using a different service provider.  



Roaming does not extend to countries that are not members of the EEA. Outside the EEA, roaming costs (especially for data) may be high. Check with your operator before you leave in order to avoid incurring prohibitive charges.

Also enquire about international calling apps and services allowing you to call friends and families via an Internet connection for free.

  • Your phone needs to be unlocked to accept a SIM card from another provider. You will have to wait until you get to France to buy one as usually they are not shipped outside France. SIM cards can be purchased directly with the operators or at resellers such asposte offices, supermarkets and cigarette stores (tabac). Make sure the card meets your needs in terms of volume of data and calls, but also in terms of countries covered.
  • If you opt for a virtual eSIM most of the operators are proposing now, check whether your phone is eSIM compatible.
  • Check the validity period of the cards and recharges and if you will be informed by the operator about the upcoming end of it and how. ?
  • See if you will receive phone calls when your recharge is empty
  • Check if you will be refunded of the remaining credit on the prepaid card if you leave France. On this last point, note that the operator is not obliged by law to refund the remaining credit.

Before taking out a phone plan in France, first check with your operator whether calls and texts to foreign countries are already covered by your plan.

Also enquire about international calling apps and services allowing you to call friends and families via an Internet connection for free.

If you then decide to sign up for a contract, be aware of the following:

  • Your phone must be unlocked and GSM compatible to accept a French operator.
  • Most operators will ask you for ID and a proof of residence.
  • When paying by direct debit (prélèvement automatique) or card, they will also ask for your bank account to be domiciled in France or your card to be issued by a French bank. If you are an EU resident, insist on your right to a bank account in any of the EU Member states and the possibility of Single European Payment Area (SEPA) direct debits.
  • Many contracts (abonnements, forfaits) have a validity period of 12 to 24 months, which might be too long for a short stay in France. So make sure to get a contract you can cancel at any time (sans engagement) and check the cancellation conditions and possible fees before signing up.
  • To terminate your subscription, check the general terms and conditions. Always prefer a written cancellation to keep a proff, rather than a simple phone call. If you have to send in a letter and material provided by the operator, prefer registered letter. You will need a proof of your sending and the date you asked for the end of your contract.
  • See if there are any activation fees.
  • Check also the call and data volume and countries covered.

Follow the advice provided by the Directorate General for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) :

  • Beware of offers that are too good to be true : operators may offer reductions but you should be provided with information on the conditions for being granted them. For instance, an age-related reduction should be clearly specified on the website.
  • Check that the mandatory information is available, such as the corporate name, address of the registered office and email address, telephone numbers, total cost of the service and any additional charges, terms of payment, whether there is a right of withdrawal and how this can be exercised, validity period for the offer and the proposed prices, and subscription start date.  
  • You must be provided with the main information on a written medium or on any other durable medium following signature of the contract : confirmation of information previously given, information on the terms and conditions for the right of withdrawal, and the address and telephone number of the provider’s premises for the consumer to submit any claims. The telephone number must be a non-premium-rate number.
  • When you sign the contract, you must be informed of the conditions attached to your commitment : in the summary of the order, the consumer must be able to change their choices and rectify any errors.
  • You can use price comparison tools to compare offers. Some are offered free of charge by consumer protection associations or commercial companies.

France counts for many Wi-Fi hotspots and free public internet access zones, in city centres, airports, hotels, shops, cafés etc. as well as public buildings. You may need to register to have access to the service.

Please remember that every network is a potential risk of getting your data stolen or infecting your computer. Search for wifi network only in places that you know or that look secure and officially advertise their wifi hotspot. Use it only if you understand the terms of use as some networks might require registration and fees.

You might also want to consider using encryption or VPN services to secure your access.

In France, the following numbers have premium rates and are not covered by roaming. Forewarned is forearmed!

  • 10-digit numbers starting with 08 
  • 4-digit numbers starting with 3 or 10 
  • 6-digit numbers starting with 118 

When you call one of these numbers, you are told in the first ten seconds that the call is subject to a charge before billing actually starts.

You should contact your domestic operator for information on the price of calls to these numbers.

You should know that a trader may not surcharge a telephone number destines to receive calls from consumers to obtain the proper performance of a contract or the handling of a complaint. This number shall be indicated in the contract and correspondence.

Beware ! Some so-called “special” numbers are free (i.e. “toll-free” numbers starting with 0 800 to 0 805) for French consumers but there may be charges for foreign users. Check the terms and conditions of your plan before calling these numbers.

Good to know: Since the 1st of January 2021, no administration of the state, nor organisations with a public service mission can use a paid phone number to be contacted by telephone. The obligation for administrations to no longer use surcharged telephone numbers does not apply to local authorities (town halls, departments, inter-municipalities, etc.).

  • If you subscribed your contract in an EEA Member state

If you are based in a Member State of the European Economic Area (EEA), i.e. the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU) and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, the crossborder portability regulation will allow you to benefit from your service while you temporarily stay in France.

Covered are paid subscriptions anywhere in the EU, such as:

  • Video streaming platforms
  • E-book downloads
  • On-demand TV show access from private national channels
  • Sporting events broadcasts by premium services

While in France you can access the same content in the same conditions as in your residence country, without extra costs.

Please note, if you sign-up for a service in France during your stay, you will not be able to use it when permanently returning home.

More information in the article of the European Commission Digital Single Market – Portability of online content services (


  • If you are resident of a country outside the EEA Member states

Check with your provider if temporarily travels are covered by your contract and if and to what extent you can access your content from abroad. Often service is restricted to the country you signed up in.

If you are envisaging to sign up for a VPN service, check you contract for possible restrictions. Be also aware that some services detect VPNs and restrict access via them.

Also be aware that you are not allowed to download and share content protected by author’s or intellectual property rights.

Good to know: concerning the use of music services abroad, also check your contract before leaving to see for how long you can use your subscription abroad, especially if it is a free account.

  • First of all, contact the provider in writing. Keep a record of your exchanges.

If you opted for a French operator, and you encounter any problem during or at the end of your contract, contact the customer service of the operator. You will find its details on your invoice or on the operator’s website. If the problem with a French operator persists, the operator needs to inform you about the contact details of the competent mediator.

  • If this effort proves unsuccessful, proceed as follows:

- if you live in France, you can receive assistance from "La médiation des communications électroniques" or a consumers’ association, whose contact information is available on the DGCCRF’s website. You can also report your problem with the trader (misleading advertising, lack of price information...) on the SignalConso platform..

- If you live in another EU Member State, Iceland or Norway, the European Consumer Centre for your country can assist you. Visit the ECC Network website for its contact information.

- If you live in a non-EU country, contact the embassy or consulate of your country in France or report your dispute on the, via the complaint form or contact the members of

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.